I saw Robin Williams once. He was standing outside of a Starbucks on W60th in Manhattan next to a bike leaning on a parking sign and talking on the phone. I realized who he was as I walked past but he was on the phone so I didn’t say anything. Instead I walked about 30 feet past him and pulled out my phone and pretended to text someone. I waited a few moments for him to get off the phone so I could tell him what I wanted to say but then a black Chevy Suburban pulled up, he got in and drove past me.
“Thank you,” that’s what I wanted to tell him. Just, “thank you.”
You see, for me, Robin Williams gave me hope as an actor and more. My high school drama director told me that I played too big to ever be in a dramatic roll. And, he was right because I am a bit of a ham. But he was also “right” because that’s all he ever let me be. Then my senior year he took what I am sure he felt was a risk and cast me as Billy Bigalow in the musical Carousel. After the show wrapped he said he was sorry he doubted me – that I could play a serious roll. I knew I could do it because Robin Williams did it.
We all have someone in our lives that gives us hope that we can be what we dream. I loved everything I saw Robin Williams in. From watching SCTV with my parents to Dead Poets Society to Toys, to his stand-up, to Aladdin to…you get the idea. It was watching him in “Good Will Hunting” that gave me hope, though. So often in our lives we know how much we bring to the table. But, sadly, others only choose to see a sliver of it and make assumptions on the rest. I love being the funny guy on and off stage and I don’t want that to ever change but I also want the world to see me through a wider lens. How about you? What are the other adjectives that more fully describe you that you wish others would also say past the vague “she/he is sweet, nice, funny, smart, etc.” that you usually hear?
All of this comes back to a very powerful word: validation. Yes, it’s important to self-validate but that becomes a whole lot easier when someone who looks and or acts like you accomplishes what you, too, would like to accomplish one day. For some, it’s seeing someone of the same skin color, gender, or orientation achieve a position never thought possible. It’s different for everyone. For me, Robin Williams validated my goals of wanting to become not just an actor, but a person who has depth and range way beyond what his go to jokey-self may allude.
Kanye West said in his song, “Big Brother,” one of my favorite quotes: “If you admire somebody you should go ‘head tell ‘em. People never get the flowers while they can still smell ‘em.” Thank you, Robin Williams. I’m sorry I never got to tell you that in person…I guess I should have interrupted your phone call.